San Antonio is responding to U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). As chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Smith has repeatedly spoken out against what he calls an overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The EPA consistently ignores the tremendous costs of rules and relies on hidden scientific data to justify its overreaching regulations,” Smith said in a statement, following the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that the EPA must factor cost into its decision on Mercury Air Toxins regulation.

Smith’s recent hearing, entitled “Making the EPA Great Again,” raised alarms in the scientific community.

According to the Washington Post, the list of witnesses at the hearing included “Jeffrey Holmstead, a former deputy EPA administrator who is now a lobbyist and lawyer representing fossil fuel energy companies; Kimberly White, senior director of chemical products and technology with the American Chemistry Council, a group representing chemical manufacturers; and Richard Belzer, an independent industry consultant who specializes in environmental and chemical risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses. The fourth witness, called by the Democratic minority, was Rush Holt, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.”

“This is not a panel likely to produce an objective examination of EPA’s activities,” U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said. Johnson is the ranking Democrat on the committee.

I recently penned the following letter in response to Smith’s hearing:

Dear Congressman Smith,

Today our world faces unprecedented challenges. The negative impact that we have had upon our global climate is affecting both our communities and our critical infrastructure. We need leaders such as yourself to put politics aside and work together to help solve these pressing issues.

Congressman Smith, respectfully, your continued refusal to acknowledge our role in impacting the climate is alarming and harmful to our nation’s security and economy. Your effort to “make the EPA great again” delegitimizes climate scientists around the globe, and adversely impacts the design and construction industry who have been vocal advocates to address the impacts of climate change. The real estate industry has worked closely with the federal government, state agencies, and the private sector to improve the built environment in a trillion-dollar sector – accounting for nearly 6% of our nation’s economy.

From 2011 to 2014, the Green Building construction market generated $167.4 billion in GDP, supported 2.1 million jobs, and provided $147 billion in labor earnings. This vocal and organized group [has] been a consistent advocate for policies that lead to energy-efficient carbon neutral buildings and infrastructure, more stringent building codes, and policies to make our communities more resilient. Global warming and man-made hazards pose an increasing threat to the safety of the public and the vitality of our nation. Resilient buildings and robust infrastructure are our nation’s first line of defense against disasters created by global climate change.

Buildings alone account for almost 40% of total U.S. energy use and 72% of U.S. electricity use. Architects, together with the breadth of the construction and real estate industry, comprise over 330,000 members in the American Institute of Architects, the United States Green Building Council, and the Urban Land Institute. Together, these organizations acknowledge the impact of man upon climate change and have all adopted similar sustainability goals and initiatives:

  • Reaffirm America’s commitment to addressing climate change through the participation of this historic Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Acknowledge the importance of the renewable energy industry by creating a level playing field where subsidies for renewable energy technology are equal to the many costly subsidies that support fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

We urge you to adopt stronger measures, grounded in science and innovation, helping to create a more secure future for our citizens, thereby making our nation truly great for generations to come.


David Lake

David Lake is co-founder of Lake/Flato Architects. His many local projects include the co-development of 1221 Broadway, the Maverick apartments, The 68 at Hemisfair, expansion of the Witte Museum, and...